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  #1  
Old November 3rd, 2006, 04:50 PM
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Default Re: Shipset designing, Tips, Tricks, and Issues

Quote:
That's when I ran into this line in VehicleSizes.txt: "Vehicle TopDown Picture Index "
Since I had inserted my 42x42 pic into the beginning of the _Shipset.bmp I had to change this line for every single vehicle entry in the file.
Never add stuff to the beginning...
Add it to the end.

The fact that the vehiclesizes.txt will use an index of 20 for the escort, and 1 for the frigate makes absolutely no difference, and saves you a ton of hassle.

The soon-to-come neostandard should provide an ordered location for each of the new reccommended images in addition to names.
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Old November 3rd, 2006, 05:04 PM

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Default Re: Shipset designing, Tips, Tricks, and Issues

Quote:
Suicide Junkie said:
The soon-to-come neostandard should provide an ordered location for each of the new reccommended images in addition to names.
Which will be great, provided everybody follows it.
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Old November 3rd, 2006, 09:17 PM
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Default Re: Shipset designing, Tips, Tricks, and Issues

Well, if they want their extra images and models to actually get used, shipsetters will...
And if they want to have any chance of getting decent looking models to show up for their new vehicle sizes, modders will too.
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Old November 3rd, 2006, 11:50 PM
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Default Re: Shipset designing, Tips, Tricks, and Issues

SJ you can sticky the thread if you want. It might be one worth keeping a lock on.
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Old November 4th, 2006, 04:22 AM

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Default Shipset designing, Tips, Tricks, and Issues

Hi folks!

Since there wasn't a thread just for this subject I decided to make one.
I'd like to see this thread be someplace where a shipset designer can go for info or to share their experiences when making shipsets. Hopefully we can pack it with some good info and discussion.

There are 103 individual files in each major empire's folder, that includes AI stuff and all the stock vehicles.

That number can be a bit daunting at first but if you approach it one ship at a time it's not so bad. I'm only going to cover the ships themselves and let someone more knowledgeable take a stab at the other stuff.

What you need:

A 3d modeler.
A model converter that can import and export a file format that your modeler can use, and can import and export directx models. If your modeler can do .x files (import and export) natively great, you can eliminate one entire step in the process.
An image editor that can handle .bmp's and .jpg's.
A way to skin your model. Some 3d apps can unwrap a model and export the map to an image editor, if your's doesn't you'll need a separate program to do this.

I'm not going to tell you which programs you should use as it can be a matter of preference or taste. Google is your friend!

You'll note that I want you to be able to get an .x file into your modeler. The reason for this is two-fold; one, I've seen two different converters lay the same model out along two different axis, if you import a stock model you can see right away how your software will do it and it will save you from having to go back and rotate your model.
Two, by importing a stock model you can get a feel for how detailed you can get with your model, use some stock models to see how many polies (or tri's if you can, directx uses them exclusively) they use. I can already tell you, not many. If your model is too detailed (high poly) then it will slow the game down.

Skipping ahead...
Now that you have your model done and skinned (quick note on textures- the stock game uses 256x256 pixel bitmaps for textures, you don't have to, you can use a 512x512 jpeg if you wish which has a smaller filesize and no noticeable quality loss, you may be able to go even larger but I haven't checked) what's next? Save it in your modeler's native format so you can go back to it if you have to (you've probably been doing this all along) and convert a copy of it over to an .x file for testing. Make a test mod with this structure "Test Mod\Empires\Abbidon" (you can use any empire you want from the stock game) and put your .x file and texture file into the folder. Rename the .x file to abbidon_frigate. Run a quickstart game, design a frigate and use the simulator to see how it looks!

When you know your .x file is good then you can go back to your modeler to render some pics.
You need the following for each ship you make:

a 500x704 jpg top-down (with the front of the ship at the top of the pic) for the inventory screen - should be grayscale

a 42x42 bmp top-down (front at top) for the Empire_Shipset.bmp file

a 512x512 jpg (3/4 front view) this is your Empire_LargePortrait_Ship.jpg

a 128x128 bmp (3/4 front view) this is your Empire_Portrait_Ship.bmp

a 64x64 bmp (3/4 front view) for the Empire_Vehicle_Main_Texture.bmp file

Once you've got all those you can move on to the next ship. (There is another file, Empire_Unit_Combat_Texture.bmp, but I've not had occasion to use it yet. So if anyone else can fill in the blank..... )

Whole set done? Wow! You're quick!
In order to make the _Shipset.bmp and _Vehicle_Main_Texture.bmp files it may be easiest to just make copies of an existing empire and paste your 42x42's and 64x64's into the correct places.


Now for an issue I've run into.
I decided that I wanted to add escorts back into the game. I made my ship and all my pics but ran into a snag when I came to the _Vehicle_Main_Texture and _Shipset files, how could I add an entirely new ship to these files?
The Main_Texture file seemed to put all the vehicles into alpha-order but there wasn't room for a new ship. What I had to do was extend the picture an additional 64 pixels downward, then cut and paste the small pics until I had opened the right spot for my escort. Cool, that one was easy.
I took a similar approach to the _Shipset file, except that I didn't have to add another row and this file appeared to put the ships in order by their size. So I did the cut and paste thing to make a hole at the beginning of the pic and inserted my escort in. From there I just had to change some text files, _Ships_XFileClasses.txt (in the empire's folder) and the VehicleSizes.txt (in the Data folder.) For both files I just copied the stats for the frigate, pasted the copy above it, and edited the copy to turn it into an escort.

That's when I ran into this line in VehicleSizes.txt: "Vehicle TopDown Picture Index "
Since I had inserted my 42x42 pic into the beginning of the _Shipset.bmp I had to change this line for every single vehicle entry in the file.

And that is the real problem.
By having "Vehicle TopDown Picture Index" in the VehicleSizes.txt file shipsets that add more ships and units are going to be locked to the mod they were written for (well, if you want the pictures to match, that is.) What I would like to see is remove that line from the VehicleSizes file and put it into each individual empire's _Ships_XFilesClasses file. Unfortunately, this would require patching the game.

Can anybody else come up with a better solution?
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Old November 13th, 2006, 04:47 PM

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Default Re: Shipset designing, Tips, Tricks, and Issues


I'm currently unable to play the game much due to the bugs. However, I do know enough about 3d modelling and skinning that I thought I might try to create some new ship models, just for s&g's.

Any guidelines on maximum poly counts on models?
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Old November 13th, 2006, 05:13 PM
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Default Re: Shipset designing, Tips, Tricks, and Issues

I think the best poly count is "the fewer you can" or maybe two more
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Old November 13th, 2006, 05:35 PM

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Default Re: Shipset designing, Tips, Tricks, and Issues

Stock ships are around 500-1000 polys, IIRC.
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Old November 14th, 2006, 02:08 AM

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Default Re: Shipset designing, Tips, Tricks, and Issues

Something to remember when modeling is that directx triangulates a model. So if you've got a model that has 1000 polys but they are all quads your number of faces will double when you export to .x.

From what I've seen looking at the stock ships (though I've not looked at them all) 1300 faces (triangles) seems to be the top end with most averaging around 400 to 600.
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Old November 14th, 2006, 02:54 AM

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Default Re: Shipset designing, Tips, Tricks, and Issues

Engine Glows and Weapon Flares

Getting the engine glows and weapon flares placed on your model can be extremely frustrating. Hopefully this will make it a little bit easier for you.

Assuming that you are using a test mod to check out your new ships (highly recomended) add a Pictures folder and then an Effects subfolder in it. In the Effects folder add copies of "EngineGlow.bmp" and "weapon_flare.bmp." In your test empire folder add a copy of "BitmapEffects_Combat.txt" and the shipset viewer. Edit the "BitmapEffects_Combat" file so that only the entries for Engine Glow and Firing Flare remain.

Once you've done all that go into the "_Ships_XFileClasses.txt" and find your ship. Change the number of Engine Points to 1, set all the coordinates to 0 (including the offsets,) and make the glow radius 0.9. Save and open the viewer. Go to your ship, zoom in a bit, and press "G" to make the engine glow brighter. To get a really good idea of where the glow is at you may want to zoom in very close and spin the ship.

Now you should have a good idea of which direction you need to move the engine point. In the "_Ships_XFileClasses" file the coordinates are laid out like this;
  • x = left and right, positive is right and negative is left
  • y = front to back, positive is front (away from the camera) and negative is back (towards the camera)
  • z = up and down, positive is down and negative is up (yeah, that's backwards from any 3d I've ever worked with too)
The offsets are just to move the glow off of the model, you can choose to use them or just make the engine points equal the glow points. Once you've got the first one set where you want it you can add the second one and so on. The weapon flares can be done the same way.

It takes some (a lot) of trial and error so you'll find yourself bouncing in and out of the veiwer often but at least it loads quick.

Hopefully this'll help someone out. Any questions please feel free to post them here or pm me. Now, back to working on my set!

[Edit] If you have a hard time finding your engine glow you can always use a weapon flare slot to help you pin down the location. Set one to a 90 degree arc and the arc lines will form an arrow for you. Once you have it nailed down you just put those coordinates back into the engine glow slot. Hope that makes sense!
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